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We have been preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit since late February and now the time has finally arrived, from the 22nd to the 25th of May our team, consisting of Alina and Charlotte, has presented our work at the Exhibitions Fair of the WHS.

What is the WHS?

The WHS is the first global summit on the topic of humanitarian aid and an initiative of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Preparations for the summit have been going on since 2012. Between 5000 and 6000 delegates have met during the summit, among them many heads of state and government, to discuss humanitarian aid and to shape an agenda for change. The Exhibitions Fair forms part of the summit and is a space where organizations, interest groups, governments and enterprises can present their work.

How IHA came to the WHS

The IHA is a small and very young organization and it initially seemed impossible that we could be part of such a high calibre event. However, that didn’t stop us from applying. When we finally got the news that we had been selected in late March we couldn’t believe it. What remained was the question about the costs. Anyone who has ever been involved in running a fair of organizing a booth at one will know that the costs associated with this are tremendous, much more than an organization such as ours could afford. But once again we were fortunate. As part of the initial application it was possible to specifically apply for a free of charge booth. A few small organizations were granted a free of charge booth by the UN and as it turned out the IHA was one of them. The only costs we had to cover ourselves were for printed materials and travel expenses of our team, an amount that was much easier to come up with.

At the WHS

Alina and Charlotte arrived in Istanbul on Friday evening and spend Saturday decorating our booth. While the actual summit didn’t start until Monday the Exhibitions Fair was officially opened Sunday afternoon. For all three days we were at the summit to present our work and advocate for the importance of the role of volunteers. Our first impressions of the summit were sobering. While the results of the high level talks seemed promising we were disappointed by the lack of interaction between decision makers and smaller NGOs such as ours. Over the course of the summit this changes a little and we are hopeful about the end results of the summit. The coming weeks, months and years will show how much impact the summit can generated and if the system is truly ready and willing for reform. We will keep a critical eye on these changes as in the past often commitments were not fulfilled the way they would need to be in order for this summit to become a true game changer. For our organization we are already drawing a positive conclusion in terms of our development and the acquisition of partners who uphold the same principles as we do and who are keen to deliver high quality relief.

Furthermore, our organization will also change as a result of this summit and with the new contacts and potential areas of action that it has already generated and will continue to generated in the near and medium term future. This summit has been all about commitments, and while large organizations and governments have committed to better financing of the humanitarian aid system we are hereby committing to a further implementation of humanitarian standards and professionalism. In the coming months we will be developing monitoring, evaluation and impact strategies and seek to make our work more evidence-based. These are huge tasks for an organization as young and small as ours but they are at the core of making aid ethical and transparent.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped us make this possible.